I’m beginning to think I should be banned from picking movies for the The Blog Collab because my last few have been ambulating snoozefests with a puffed up sense of their own importance. This week is no exception and even though you might be able to argue that it’s art, it’s not the kind of art I want any part in.
Gay July has been good in many ways but this is a wet fart of a swan song and I’m sorry, Jill.
A Brooklyn teenager spends his days experimenting with drugs and looking online for older men to meet with.
If your bag is watching wayward teens wandering up and down the boulevard with their tops off then this is the movie for you. Unfortunately, these adolescents don’t get into enough japes to be interesting, instead they smoke weed and gawp at girls as they walk by and sometimes rib each other.
Frankie (Harris Dickinson) is one of the boys, a hot piece popular within a peer group that seems to look to him for leadership. By night he trawls gay chat rooms where he talks to older men. At first he says he doesn’t do any meeting up but this changes later in the movie.
One evening on the boardwalk, Frankie meets Simone (Madeline Weinstein) who is only too eager to make him her guy. Things are very awkward between them from the start and he continually lets her down. To the men on the internet he is a guy who ‘has sex with men’, not bi-sexual or gay – but his family, friends and Simone have no inkling of his secret life.
Frankie prefers to keep the having sex with men part of his life separate from everything else and chooses older men so they are less likely to move in the same circles as his friends. As his ability to hide this part of himself starts to become increasingly difficult, his two worlds collide in a surprisingly lackluster but horrible way.
And… that’s about it.
There’s not that much to say. The performances are fine, it looks nice with a pleasing aesthetic that focuses a lot of time grazing over the bodies of our teen cast. The ending is a little bit shocking and maybe on reflection more shocking because it’s so mundane in its execution. The only, and I pretty much mean the only part I thought was even mildly touching was the bit where Frankie’s mum begs him to tell her what’s going on after the ‘horrible act’ has happened.
There are shades of Harmony Korine (especially Kids) which I think are very deliberate but not much effort been made to make us like any of the characters. I simply didn’t care about Frankie and his struggles. I was bored silly.
Roll on August!
What does my love think of this one? Would she mug it for weed or take it for a moonlight stroll? Find out here.
Here at Collab HQ (it’s more of a state of mind than an actual place given that we’re camped on separate continents), we love to devastate ourselves. Sometimes we favour fluff just to get over the utter weep-fests we’ve put ourselves through.
Although this week’s movie might not have had that exact effect on me, it did leave me with a heavy lump in my chest. It was a movie I felt profoundly and I’m so glad we finally got round to it. Thank you Netflix for coming through.
Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.
Johnny (Josh O’Connor) lives with his dad and gran on a cattle farm in Yorkshire. Rural life is fucking tough, his father isn’t that well and Johnny dulls his pain and loneliness with booze and secret liaisons with boys down the local (I feel ya, Johnny). Delivered home puking most nights by furious cab drivers, Johnny’s folks just think he’s irresponsible and don’t understand him at all. This just exacerbates his feeling of isolation and when he does bump into friends from his past, he’s bitter because they’ve moved on and left him behind.
When it becomes apparent that the farm will need more help during lambing season, they hire Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) who quickly becomes a god send, much to Johnny’s irritation. The pair doesn’t hit it off immediately and Johnny burns bridges in the first few days by referring to Gheorghe as ‘gyppo’.
While Gheorghe pretty much just gets on with it, even around the awkward energy between Johnny and his family, he doesn’t take kindly to Johnny’s racist attitude and nips it in the bud quickly. One weekend, away from the farm but very much on farming duties, the boys come head to head and the friction that’s been building between them explodes. What begins with a fight, ends in rough sex in the mud.
After this encounter, the two barely speak about it though there has been an unmistakable shift between them. Later that night, they fuck again, this time with a little more tenderness.
Back at the ranch, the sex continues but it also becomes more than that. Johnny invites his lover to share his bed in the farmhouse but he declines, preferring to stay in the caravan.
As Johnny and Gheorghe get closer, Johnny’s father suffers another stroke and the future of the farm is placed in Johnny’s calloused hands. When he discusses the prospect of Gheorghe staying on and permanently running the farm with him, Gheorghe expresses some concerns, namely living and working together simultaneously.
This sends Johnny into a tailspin and he acts out enough to send Gheorghe packing. Gheorghe also suffers some predjudice in the pub which doesn’t help.
Johnny’s nan Deidre (Gemma Jones) blames him for fucking up again and wonders how they’ll manage now. When Johnny goes to see his father about the future, he’s surprisingly understanding and gives his blessing for Johnny to do what he needs to to be happy – can you guess what that is?
Will Johnny do the right thing and make a success of his future finally? What do you think?
This film is gorgeous to look at but it’s all in the glances our lovers share, in the secret looks and the slightest of gestures. It’s in the loneliness, the isolation and the ache of not being able to be open to who they are – until they can be open with each other and I really felt it all.
The performances are heartfelt, while the pace of the film is quite slow which I didn’t mind. Not once did this feel like a slog and I think there’s a skill in that kind of film making. The movie very subtley addresses the topic of homophobia but more so in the fact that it isn’t talked about and everything has to be secret. While I don’t remember any out and out prejudice, this is only because Johnny’s not out publicly.
It was heart-warming to learn that perhaps Johnny’s family knew more than he thought about his ‘secret’ and that in their own sweet way they just wanted what was best for him. As for Gheorghe, we get little insight into his own life in Romania, something I would have liked but I understand wasn’t strictly necessary.
All in all this is a nice love story that felt authentic – and yes, it almost finished me.
What did my love think of this one? Would she take it down the local for a fumble or toss it out with the cold bath water? Find out here of course.
IMDB Synopsis: Leonardo is a blind teenager searching for independence. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana, and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel.
Leo is blind. He’s also a hot-blooded teenager who fantasises about his first kiss, which he wants to be perfect (e.g. not with the school slut). Except he doesn’t believe anyone will ever want to pash on with him (oh honey, just you wait!). His best friend Giovana is a tad protective (maybe a little into him too) which earns her the nickname ‘human walking stick’ from the school bullies which, I feel, needs some work.
Every day she walks out of her way to see him to his gate, because that’s what good BFFs do. Leo takes this in good spirit but is less patient with his parents who are more than a little anxious every time he goes out, comes home to an empty apartment or breathes.
Leo also gets the piss ripped out of him by the obligatory school fuck heads, who mock his loud braille typewriter and imply that he’s gay. Pretty standard bully stuff really, but the kid’s blind, man. There has to be a special section in hell cordoned off for douche bags like Fabio (Pedro Carvalho) who, incidentally is the most irritating character in cinematic history; and not even a very good bully at that.
But back to Leo. One day, on the day he’s having to deal with stupid Fabio, in rocks Gabriel who takes the seat behind him. Before long, Giovana, Leo and Gabriel are thick as thieves, happily hanging out as a threesome but not in that way, obvs – this is a coming-of-age flick not a porno.
While the new friends bond, Leo floats the idea of going abroad with a foreign exchange programme. Even before Gab arrives, Leo has convinced himself that he wants out, to live somewhere alone and gain a bit of independence away from his overbearing family. The Exchange Programme woman is helpful but tells Leo he has to get his parent’s consent plus as a blind person, needs to find a family who’s down with that too. Not that he’s mentioned it to anyone besides Giovana, mind – right now it’s just a thought.
When the boys are paired together on a school project on Sparta (just watch 300 (2006), yo!), they start to become closer and Giovana feels excluded. More than that, she feels like she’s been completely abandoned. One day when they fail to wait for her after class, she goes mental and refuses to speak to either of them.
This only pushes our Romeos closer together. Leo starts to get feelings for Gabriel but doesn’t really know what to do with them. Well, I mean he knows what they mean, but doesn’t push the fact with Gabriel until one night at a party, Gabriel unexpectedly gives Leo his first kiss. N’aw.
This is after Fabio and his crew have tried to play a cruel trick on Leo whilst playing spin the bottle, which is thankfully twarted by Giovana. This leads to another row, but Giovana doesn’t tell Leo what they’d been planning to save his feelings. (See, good BFF!).
After the party, Gabriel tells Leo he was super drunk and remembers nothing, apart from having a row with Giovana (who also kissed him but he declined). Later, on a school trip, it becomes clear to us (but not Leo), that Gabriel is having sexy feelings too, though he doesn’t say anything, just looks angsty.
For the rest of the trip, gossip is rife about Gabriel and the school ho-bag, Katrina (Isabela Guasco), who’s a bundle of fun frankly (and unfairly labelled, I think. There’ll be no slut-shaming in this review). It seems apparent, from all ‘the signs’ that they’ll be getting it on later that evening.
Giovana and Leo make up thankfully, and Leo takes the opportunity whilst they’re alone and drinking to confess that he thinks he’s in love with Gabriel. Giovana does not react well and stomps off, though a few days later comes back and apologises, saying that she thinks they’d make a cute couple and that she just needed to get her head around the idea of him being a great big gay (to paraphrase).
Later, Gabriel and Leo are alone and they talk about the kiss and then… lalalala I’m not telling you!
To the questions section… Will our heroes admit their true feelings to one another? Will Giovana ever get over her jealousy? Will she meet her own special prince? Will Fabio just fuck off already, please?
Will Leo’s parents ever let him go abroad on his own? And will he still want to?
How fit is Leo’s dad? And finally, ain’t love just grand? (Especially young, innocent, boy love?)
Meh. While this is a sweet film, I found it all a little bit after school special. I mean, I like the characters and all, I like the angst but there just wasn’t enough oomph for my taste. God, has Wetlands ruined me for nice, gentle and romantic films now? I sure hope not.
There is an innocence about The Way He Looks that’s refreshing but it needed an extra push to take it from okay to great. I’m not sure what my suggestion would be. Just a bit more attitude I think; some sass.
That said, Ghilherme Lobo is really good as Leo. I’m pretty sure from the half-arsed research I did for one minute that he isn’t blind irl, which makes him a bloody acting genius in my eyes, as he was very convincing.
The theme of independence that runs throughout it is also quite a touching one. How frustrating it must be to want freedom so badly but have all control held just out of your reach. This is something I remember from being a teenager, but the added challenge of being blind must amplify the resentment.
Leo’s parents mean well and they’re nice, loving people who care. Leo’s grandma is also a big part of his life (even though I’ve failed to mention her until now) and she’s pretty cool too. When Gabriel picks Leo up to go and work on their assignment, she just knows, you know?
There are some really nice moments, some light comedy and all in all, it’s perfectly fine. Not something that will stick with me, even given the final scenes, which are very, very adorable.
My Rating: 3/5 – *shrug*
What does my partner in crime, Jillian make of this little number? Find out here soon!